Fear is easily underestimated.
Every time we play in public, we take a wild dive off a cliff, with no safety net below. Most professional musicians have learned, through trial and error how to control their fear. The path towards keeping that treacherous adversary at bay is long and hard, usually fought over the course of our whole lives. The balance in the war we fight against fear shifts constantly as we progress through life; sometimes we are practically invulnerable to its effects, other times its mere first appearance is enough to make our defenses come crashing down.
We all know the process; one moment you are calm and happy and then fear, subtly slips into our thoughts. It's disguised as doubt at that point--- what was that note in the left hand again? right: C sharp. No problem. I wonder if I studied enough. We quickly push doubt away, but that little seed is planted. Unrest seeps into our thoughts and we get a tiny bit nervous. It's not a big deal though, we can reason our fear away--- I've been studying this piece for months now, hours and hours every day. Of course I studied enough. in any case, a wrong note is nothing to worry about. We calm down for a little while, but just on the surface. Under that thin protective layer of positive thought that reason gave us there are negative thoughts stirring, ready to take over. Slowly but surely, reason is losing the battle, despite having been proved right countless times before.
Fear, at first a tiny idea made up completely in our minds has now revealed itself for what it is, a projection of all our self-destructive thoughts and impulses. It now starts attacking our body--- shortness of breath, speeding heart, dry mouth, sweaty clammy cold hands, our knees tremble and we get a sudden urge to urinate. We start falling apart, all while reason tries to hold up the defense. Eventually, we just give up. This is irrational fear, reason can do nothing against it. We only have a couple of defenses left. Hope, blind trust that everything will be alright. I'm sure that most musicians reading this have lived that feeling of just jumping out onto the stage, clinging to a hope that it will all work out, because it is the only thing we have; even if at that point, we are practically defeated by fear, an illusion made up by our own minds--- even less than that; a notion, a fleeting thought.
Every time we let fear break through, we are losing the fight against our own selves. That battle against our own self-destructive tendencies--- against our demons, prejudices and negative thoughts--- is the most important battle most musicians have to face in their development. The only way to beat fear is to face it head on. It is tempting to forget, to look away and let it lie. But if we don't take the offensive against it, it will just come back and win again. That journey of self-inspection; that long hard look into the mirror is difficult, but it is a step that all musicians have to take. Once we see ourselves as we really are and truly accept and embrace reality, the fear will be gone.